South Beach, that magical strip of sand on a mangrove island. As a local, I’m always being asked by friends, friends of friends, 3rd cousins of friends, even frenemies of friends, for recommendations. After years of giving advice, I figured I would finally make it official and share it with the world.
Everyone is familiar with the South Beach that’s on television…glamourous, extravagant, cocaine infested…but that’s not the only side this little neighborhood has. My South Beach is charming, a little weird and believe it or not, peaceful.
If you’re looking to have a wild weekend, it’s not even a challenge in South Beach. Close your eyes, spin around, choose a direction and walk about 5 minutes. You’ll find a party. If you’re looking to see some things that only locals know about…keep reading!
Located at the southern tip of South Beach, this was renovated a few years ago and it was one of the few times I thought, damn Miami you done good!!!
Stretching from east to west, from the ocean to the bay, this is a lovely place to walk, run, take your dog, take your children, rollerblade, ride a bike, and a dozen other things. There is an area closer to the bay designated as a dog park area. In the middle there is a fountain that children (and adults) can frolic in to cool off. There is also a playground for children.
Dogs love it here too!
In South Point Park, you can do one of my favorite free activities, watch the cruise ships depart from government cut (the narrow channel of water that leads from the Port of Miami to the ocean). On Saturdays and Sundays roughly around 4:00 pm, the cruise ships leave one at a time and you can bring a bottle of wine, a blanket, and plant yourself in South Point park anywhere along the water and watch the parade of floating hotels, full of happy people eager to wave at you. Sounds dorky but it really is fun. If you want to spend a bit of cash, you can get a table at nearby Smith and Wollenksy and grab a bite or a drink while watching the ships go out to sea.
This small charming street has a Spanish vibe and has some small boutiques and restaurants. It is located between 14th and 15th streets between Washington and Pennsylvania Avenues. Very easy to miss if you’re not looking. It is really cute with some tasty and moderately priced restaurants.
Hosteria Romana is classic Italian, complete with kitschy red checked tablecloths and handsome flirtatious Italian waiters calling at you on the street. Ladies trust me, you can’t resist. Try the homemade pasta with porcini mushrooms. To die for! Also delicious is A La Folie for French sandwiches and crepes, Tapas Y Tintos has authentic Spanish tapas. You can also have Cuban, Mexian, Pizza, Seafood or Sushi. There are numerous options for a small street.
There are cute boutiques also like this one that doesn’t seem to have a name but I would name it “All white stuff and hats”.
Even if you don’t eat or shop here, it is worth seeing.
If you haven’t done this, it is surprisingly relaxing not to mention, a great workout. There are many places to do this and you can often find groupons for discounts. You can do this in the bay or the ocean. The bay is calmer and therefore less challenging. This activity looks much harder than it actually is. If you have decent balance skills you can do it. I suggest telling the operator you’ve done it before, otherwise they may make you take a lesson. Ain’t nobody got time for that!!!
The whole bay is yours to paddle until your heart’s content
On Purdy avenue on the bay side of the beach just north of Dade Blvd, there is a kayak/paddle board rental place called Miami Beach PaddleBoard. Don’t stress about the time. Rent for one hour and if you go over, it’s not that much more. You have to leave your driver’s license in the office. There are lockers where you can keep a towel, your money, your weed, or change of clothing and shoes. Just kidding about that weed part…nobody uses drugs in South Beach. You only need a bathing suit to paddle board. If you have a waterproof camera with a wrist strap or some other way to attach it to your body so it doesn’t become shark food, go for it! I once brought a backpack full of mini champagne bottles, but that’s just me. You can paddle through the bay, waving at yachts as you go past the Standard Hotel, where you may decide to stop for a drink. If you are doing well, you can paddle all the way to Monument Island. Us locals call this “Reggaeton Island” because there are many boats with loud reggaeton music and bikini-clad dancing Latinos.
For you athletic types, this park has excellent tennis courts, a pool, squash courts, a basketball court, soccer field, dog park. Enough said. Very centrally located with 3 entrances. The main entrance closest to pool and tennis courts is on 11th St. Another entrance is on Meridian Ave at 13th street. The other is closest to the dog park and basketball court and is on Michigan St near between 12th and 13th.
This isn’t technically on South Beach, but close enough. The Standard Hotel, formerly the DiLido and still with original facade, is on the Venetian Causeway just minutes from the beach. It is a nice little getaway from south beach and usually douchebag free. It is stunningly beautiful.
You can opt to just have meal on the water but I suggest booking a spa appointment. Once you spend over $100, you get free day pass to the rest of facilities. Totally worth it because they charge more than that for a day pass. The pool is child- free but allows dogs (admit it, that’s pretty cool) and has music piped in that you only hear underwater. They have an ice cold plunge pool next to a hot tub with a waterfall. There is an area where you can do a mud treatment then bake in the sun by the water. There is an outdoor ping-pong table and hammocks in the shade. It’s a whimsical and relaxing spot.
The boardwalk stretches from 23rd to 46th street . Prior to this, starting just north of Nikki Beach around 5th street is a paved ocean side walkway that eventually turns into a traditional wooden boardwalk and then around 30th street a paved walkway behind all the hotels.
Unless you are staying at one of the fancy hotels along the boardwalk you may not ever see it. Note that there are no roller blades or bikes permitted north of 21st street and at one place they actually have a very annoying no dog rule which I resent greatly and break whenever possible. It is a nice walk along a more scenic park of this overbuilt beach. Plus you can see the “backyards” of all the fancy hotels with the cool pools and pool bars.
Get some culture in your life and enjoy some beautiful music at the New World Symphony. At least just come by and gawk at the stunning architecture and gorgeous landscaping complete with interesting arty structures all around.
You can bring a blanket, a friend, a dog, a quiet child, some wine, some food and picnic or simply lie under the stars and listen to the symphony from the state of the art outdoor speakers and watch on the giant screen as the symphony performs inside. This is one of the best free activities that Miami has to offer. The wall cast concerts are usually on Saturdays. Check the schedule at the NWS website. On Wednesdays they show an old movie. They even have Saturday morning free yoga here in this beautiful space!
Monty’s is technically a restaurant but it’s also a bar with a swimming pool on the bay and is just a nice chill place to hang out. Sometimes there is a DJ or a band. They have a raw bar and fresh seafood. They are known for their pain killer cocktails… you choose your level of pain (1, 2 or 3) and they will take care of you!
The view from Monty’s is quite pleasant.
And there is a long walkway along the water that will lead you to South Point Park
Just please, pay attention to the signs and be careful! We have our local dangers here.
If you can wake up before sunset after a night out at LIV, you’ll find a morning stroll or bike ride to be quite peaceful as few people are awake yet, aside from a few harmless local weirdos. Consider strolling across the Venetian Causeway. Wander down Collins Ave. If you can look past the half- naked bodies and yellow rental Lamborghinis, you will see the lush tropical flora and art-deco buildings.
When you inevitably make your way to Ocean Drive for the zillions of happy hours that start at 11 AM, take time to appreciate the beauty around you.
I hope you have discovered some new activities to enjoy here in my neighborhood. Wishing you happy and safe South Beach-ing!